Geist means ghost, as in poltergeist. I’m old enough to have been around when the Catholic church changed its use of ghost to spirit. And in a good German dictionary geist means, “in one’s mind’s eye.”
As Yoda said this, his hands reached up behind his head with fingers pointing out and made a jagged lightening strike motion forward into his peripheral view. This was the international hand sign for spirit. Energy coming into view.
Now I can tell you simply understood, geist is the listener, the observer in each of us. We have our body. We have our minds. And we have our listener, our observer. If pilates is the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit, we must acknowledge the spirit in us and know how to include it in our performance. Without the presence of listening it’s not pilates. And that’s why men don’t do pilates--they don’t like to listen.
Smiles break out among the group in acknowledgement of the truth in his words.
Boy, you can say that again! Guys don’t listen at all.
That’s because a guy lives in his mind, his thinking, and from his thinking he goes out to conquer the world. I call that “mind to muscle” because he goes directly from his mind to his movement.
Yoda walks over to a canvas athletic bag nearby and from it pulls a length of rope.
Handing her one end of the rope he backs away holding the other end and with the help of Honey gets the rope going around like a jump rope.
(looking at the group)
Now, here is where, if you’ve done this enough you can feel the energy in the room get more tense. Why is that? Because everyone gets worried that they are going to be asked to jump, and jumping rope is something you can screw up. So relax. I’m not asking anyone to jump.
Faces release tension. Shoulders relax. Tension gives way to curiosity. All eyes are on the rope. Honey seems pleased and proud that she is helping with the demonstration.
The movement of the rope reflects the passage of time. The rope doesn’t appear and then disappear. It stays in motion smoothly, just like time. The passage of time is a continuum. We are all caught in the time continuum. As a matter of fact physics doesn’t even separate the notions of time and space anymore. They call it spacetime. The two, space and time, are inextrinsically woven together.
The rope continues to circle.
If you are going to jump rope, why the worry?
Because you can screw it up. It’s a timing thing. Right? So jumping rope requires proper timing. So what about the timing of the rope is similar to the timing in our own bodies?
Yes, what else?
Yes, and we have much more control over our breathing than we do our heartbeat. And just like jumping rope where we must pay attention to the timing, in our movement we must pay attention to our breathing, where we are in the cycle of our breath to when we move. Especially, when we go to initiate movement. This calls for listening. This calls for observing. Because when we move relative to when we breath affects the quality of our breathing.
The point seemed to have been made. Yoda stopped swinging the rope, approached Honey to relieve her of her end. Smiled at her. And gestured for her to return to her seat.
Thank you. Have seat.
The man in the audience had a look on concentration on his face. Reaching a conclusion he spoke.
My breathing doesn’t affect my movement. I have the same strength throughout the cycle of my breath.
This was said more as an assessment of his own experience more than as a direct challenge.
I often remind teachers that a question is a statement. A good teacher interprets the statement in the question and responds to it rather than directly answering the question. In your case, you have made a statement that seems to be more of a question. In either case, you can answer with words that speak to the mind, or you can respond by offering sensation that communicates directly with the body.
Yoda walks over to the closest two reformers that are aligned parallel to each other. He bends over and takes all the springs off of one reformer, and then does the same to the other. He positions himself between the reformers, kneeling down, facing the foot bars, so that one hand is on each of the free to slide reformers. Looking at Richard, and nodding at the space between the two reformers...
Come. Stand there.
Richard gets up a little stiffly. In his walk stretches a little to get his body moving as he assumes the position suggested.
Now face one reformer. Put one hand on the end of the frame and one hand on the end of the carriage. Good. Now do the same with your feet on the reformer behind you.
Richard looked like the name of the exercise. The spider. His shoulders were massive, the tank top revealing his passions of weight lifting and mountain climbing. His thin waist and black pants gave him the appearance of a gymnast doing a pushup with arms and legs apart.
Yoda’s hands were holding the carriages firmly in place in against the stops.
Now be careful. Don’t go too fast. Go out and in with the carriages.
Yoda moved has hands back away from the carriages but kept them ready to stop them from going out too far.
Richard immediately opened the carriages, arms and legs separating. He opened so quickly that he had no time to adjust for how quickly his body weight increased. His elbow and knee on the reformer buckled to support his weight and it would have gotten worse if not for Yoda stopping the carriages from going out further. With a push back in a few inches Richard, a bit embarrassed, but now determined to control the movement came back into position and closed both carriages. Yoga returned his hands to act as safeties while Richard explored the going out and in moving the carriages in sync.
Astonishment pervaded. All eyes were on the movement, because even though many were experienced pilates instructors none had ever seen reformers being used in tandem.
Okay, Richard. You said your breathing doesn’t affect your movement. Exhale as you go out.
He does, like a balloon emptying itself, comes to a place where he struggles to return the carriages.
Good. Now go out on the inhale.
The lungs fill up, the carriages go out, further this time, and the return is obviously stronger and more controlled. He continues inhaling to go out and exhaling to return. Each time he goes further, testing his strength, knowing that there’s a limit to how far he can go and still control it. All the while Yoda’s hand have stayed close to the carriages if support is needed but now Richard seems to have a sense of the effort and stays within his abilities. His exhales are loud, throat constricted, lips pursed. You could just see the same kind of breathing happening when he was lifting weights.
Doing great. Now don’t hear your breathing. Do “Ninja” breathing. Soft mouth, loose lips, relax your throat.
Each rep got quieter, smoother, and suddenly it seemed that there wasn’t any movement happening, only the breathing making the carriages go out and in. Fatigue set in and you could see the effort was taking its toll.
Very good. Step down, stand tall.
He did. Flush in face, not only from the effort, but from sensing the contradiction of his earlier statement to the experience he just had. He looked down at Yoda and smiled. Yoda smiled back and nodded his head at the reformer that was behind him.
Turn around. Same thing. Anchored from the other side.
Richard, now familiar with the movement, confidently performed the exercise, first in a smaller range, and then as he listened to his movement expanded his range to be fully engaged and once again, breathing became the effort.
Enough. Stand tall. Have a seat.
Amazing. Thank you.
With a stride that spoke confidence and accomplishment Richard returned to where he had been seated but remained standing. Blood was pumping, and he was too in his body to sit and remained standing, chest expanding to take in more air.
(to the group)
You see? Talk is cheap. Sensation is everything. When your client can say “I feel that.” You are in the pike five by five. When your client asks you a question, even if it’s an easy answer with words, a sensational instructor will answer with a sensation so the answer is felt, and not just heard. So you communicate directly to the body, and not just to the thinking of the mind.
Heads nodded. Appreciation of the point apparent.
Listening is the key. If you want to achieve complete coordination of the body, mind, and spirit, you have to have spirit involved. Spirit is the listener, the observer. And whether you are dealing with a very frail first time client doing knee folds on the Cadillac, or with some body like Richard’s doing the Spider, you’ve got to call upon them to listen to their sensation and take more control of their movement based upon what they sense.